The coronavirus epidemic has affected all aspects of life in the UK and is likely to have a disproportionate effect on patients who develop cancer over the coming months. Recent articles suggest that the excess mortality from cancer may be similar to that from coronavirus. Because of the reduction in breast clinic appointments many thousands of women across the country are now waiting to be seen. Within this group will be many patients whose diagnosis will have been delayed.
To further exacerbate this the breast screening programme has had to cease until such time as a safe way can be found for it to resume. In 2017/18 the programme diagnosed over 18,000 breast cancers. Until screening restarts these cancers will go undetected unless they start to produce symptoms.
When restrictions are lifted there is going to be an enormous demand for diagnostic breast services but given the workforce issues this will be even harder to provide. All the training programmes set up by the National Breast Imaging Academy are currently paused or delayed because of the coronavirus effects, and it will require an even greater training capacity to provide the workforce so desperately needed. This will be further compounded by the fact that more of the existing workforce will have retired.
Unless we act now and create a building in which we can train the staff to provide these services, we will be unable to meet the demand when restrictions are lifted, and lives will be lost. Before the coronavirus crisis many breast services were failing to meet their targets for diagnosis and given the massive surge in demand we will see in a few months, without a huge investment in training now, we will be unable to meet this.
We are seeking your help to realise this goal, a goal that has become even more pressing as a result of coronavirus. The cost to build the National Breast Imaging Academy will be £7 million and to date The Academy team – with the support of several Prevent Breast Cancer funders, have raised £2.2 million. We have fully developed plans for the building and planning permission is in place. All we need are the remaining funds and we can start construction.